Gradual workouts minimize risk of player injuries ahead of season

Director of Sports Performance Tim Kontos stands in the Stuart C. Siegel Center weight room. Photo by Jon Mirador

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Some didn’t have any training equipment, and others created makeshift squat racks at home. For VCU student-athletes, staying in peak condition without regular competition became a unique hurdle — but the university’s sports medicine professionals are rising to the challenge. 

The student-athletes were given individualized programs over the summer based on what they had available to them, said Director of Sports Performance Tim Kontos. Now that players are back, workouts are similar to those of an injured athlete. 

“When we give out summer programs, we’re always going to anticipate somebody coming back and have not done anything,” Kontos said. “We always have to proceed with that in mind, regardless of what the student-athletes tell us.”

Jeff Collins, director of sports medicine, said the training plans were intentionally planned to be a “gradual progression.”

“We knew that our student-athletes didn’t have access to the normal training facilities that they had or the sport fields that they would have had,” Collins said. “So, we knew that for the most part, our student-athletes were coming back at a different level of preparation than they normally were.”

Kontos, who is in his 20th year as sports performance director, said players started with 50% of the volume that student-athletes would normally lift and slowly increased it by 10% each week. 

“There’s no fast way to do anything,” Kontos said. “Overall, athletic development, we’re referred to as slow cooking the athletes, and that’s one of those things we tried to do when we came back from quarantine.”

Collins and Kontos both said soft tissue injuries are most common when returning to play from a layoff of activity. These injuries include muscle and ligament strains, and Collins said those can happen anywhere in the body. 

“It’s something that you do your best to avoid it, but you plan for it,” Kontos said.

Men’s soccer coach Dave Giffard said during an Oct. 16 interview that his team dealt with soft tissue injuries. 

“You basically take this break and then try to return to very high level demands,” Giffard said. “We started to see different injuries and issues start to creep up because of the lack of training for five months. The guys’ bodies just aren’t used to it.”

Giffard said his players did body weight workouts at home and ran to stay in shape without using equipment that would be available on campus. 

Collins said he doesn’t think there has been an increase in the number of soft tissue injuries and his office is seeing average numbers for the fall semester. 

“Hopefully because of the planning that we did before we started, we are able to avoid a lot of either soft tissue injuries or something that would be more major like an ACL rupture,” Collins said.

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